Some doctors says they believe patients are staying away from hospitals, fearing exposure to COVID-19

ELMHURST (WLS) -- They are fully staffed with doctors and nurses in the emergency room at West Suburban Hospital, in fact they say they have more than they need.

They say they are getting plenty of patients coming in with symptoms of COVID-19. But almost no one else.

"If you talk to any hospital across the country.. significant drop in visits to emergency departments...40-50% drops," said Dr. David Anthony with the West Suburban Hospital.

A year ago, an Elmhurst hospital saw an average of 210 ER patients a day. For the last month, they have averaged about 125.

Doctors said they believe many patients are staying away from hospitals because fear exposure to COVID-19 at hospitals.

"I think a lot of people are concerned with overburdening healthcare," said Dr. Tom King at Elmhurst Hospital.

There have also been other factors, such as less traffic and fewer car accidents as well as a lack of organized sports activities to get injured doing.

In some cases, doctors said people are staying home despite serious conditions.

"If they're having a heart attack, that's more dangerous than the risk of infection from COVID," said Dr. Pratik Parikh, a cardiologist.

At Elmhurst Hospital, COVID-19 patients are in separate wing.

At West Suburban, they are in single rooms with doors that tightly shut.

"While we really want to focus on Covid and giving them the best care possible we don't want to do that at the expense of what we usually treat like strokes, heart attacks and traumas," Anthony said.

At West Suburban, they check patients for COVID-19 before they let them into the emergency room, and if they're positive they isolate them. Doctors say they need to get the message out that patients are safe.
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